Lyle Lovett 's new "Release Me" is his last album for Curb Records after 26 years and 11 albums. But he wants to make clear that it's a fond farewell.
"I'm only grateful for my relationship with my record company," Lovett tells Billboard.com, adding his decision to part ways with Curb is "just the record business. I don't have any bad feelings about my deal. MCA Nashville passed on me; it wasn't until... Curb took the very same project back to them that they said, 'OK, we'll do it.' I do appreciate all that. The relationship's been a good thing."
Lovett says he wanted "Release Me," which comes out today (Feb. 28), to be "a punctuation mark for this whole part of my career." The album is comprised primarily of covers, "some songs that have been important to me and have been an important part of my career. Several of these songs I've played since 1976 and just had never recorded." Among them are tunes by Jesse Winchester , Townes Van Zandt , Michael Franks , Frank Loesser  and Chuck Berry , as well as the traditional instrumental "Garfield's Blackberry Bottom."
Lovett contributed two originals to the set: "The Girl With the Holiday Smile" came from a real-life 1978 encounter at a Houston 7-11 "where I met this young lady hiding out from the cops" and also appeared on his 2011 holiday EP "Songs For the Season;" and he composed "Night's Lullaby," which features Nickel Creek 's Sara and Sean Watkins, for a 2011 run in the Shakespeare Center Los Angeles' production of "Much Ado About Nothing" that the three appeared in.
Lovett co-produced the album with Nathaniel Kunkel, and other guests include k.d. lang  and Kat Edmonson . Lovett will promote "Release Me" with appearances on "The View" on Feb. 29 and "Morning Joe" on March 2. He'll play an acoustic show at The Concert Hall in New York tonight before hitting the road with John Hiatt on March 7, then mix Large Band and acoustic dates during the summer.
Meanwhile, Lovett says he's "very excited" about moving forward from Curb, but he's hasn't determined exactly what he'll do yet. "I know I want to continue to write songs and to play -- I want to keep my job," he says with a laugh. "I haven't worked out any new business relationships. What I'd really like to do is be able to make my own records, then probably affiliate with someone for distribution. We live in an age where it's so possible to let people know you have something out, but I still value greatly the capability of the major companies to get your product where it needs to go. So I have to figure out what's the right way to go for me, and where I'll feel the most comfortable."
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